Posts Tagged ‘Peter Pan’

Cinematic Adventures: Tinker Bell

After growing up in the 90’s, the thought of watching a straight-to-video Disney film is one that did not really interest me. Most of the sequels they released were unanimously terrible and only a few gems glimmered out of the river of ankle-deep sewage. Oddly enough, shortly after Disney announced that it’s DisneyToon Studios would not be releasing it’s straight to video sequels (despite the fact that they are now making a spin-off to Cars called Planes, which will probably be just as bad as most of the straight-to-video sequels), it announced a completely different take on the trend of films they had been releasing since 1994’s Return of Jafar: a series of films based off of Tinker Bell.

Now many people would ask: how do you make a series of films based off of a character who doesn’t even speak? The answer is simple, make it all about fairies and not include Peter Pan whatsoever (a decision that personally cut me to the core, but that’s neither here nor there) and in turn, create a completely brand new line of merchandising akin to the Princess line that would act off of Tinker Bell’s already suprisingly devoted fanbase.

Just as an aside, Tinker Bell is one of the oddest characters in the Disney canon. People love Tinker Bell in that she is one of Disney’s mascots and is always present in firework shows, and has been used in the introductions for shows like Disneyland, so her appearance is one that is highly saturated and ripe for people loving her without actually knowing anything about her besides the fact that she is a fairy and is magic. That being said, her actual character in Peter Pan is one that is really either loved or hated. People who like her, adore her for her “sassiness” because of how she jealously treats Wendy; people who hate her think she is just mean and cruel for the same reason that the other crowd loves her. I wanted to like Tinker Bell mostly due to the fact that I love her character design, and Marc Davis’ animation on her is amazing, but I was unfortunately in the latter camp despite my knowledge of her character and why she was acting the way she did.

Luckily, the first Tinker Bell movie allowed me to actually like her character for the first time in my life.

The film opens on the “birth” of Tinker Bell (Mae Whitman, Katara from Avatar: the Last Airbender, Roxy Richter from Scott Pilgrim VS the World, and Ann Veal in Arrested Development) from the first laugh of a newborn baby and we find out that all of the fairies in the world live in a location within Neverland called Pixie Hollow and that they each are magically assigned to a job when they are born. They can be a garden fairy, a water fairy, light fairy, animal fairy, and others. Tinker Bell is a tinker fairy, a fairy who fixes and creates items and tools for the other fairies, but is not quite in love with her job. Her new friends Rosetta (Kristin Chenoweth), Iridessa (Raven-Symone), Fawn (America Ferrera) and Silvermist (Lucy Liu) try to teach Tinker Bell about their jobs to see if she has the talent to do them, and of course, she fails on a spectacular fashion. The fairies are all preparing for the changing of the seasons from winter to spring, as they change the seasons on Earth, and in a spectacular Disney fashion, Tinker Bell ends up ruining the preparations, but learns that she has the power to create and tries to save it.

Tinker Bell is a much more likable character in this film than she is in Peter Pan. She’s sweet, curious, and determined to figure out her role in the world, but she does have that jealous and angry streak that was present in Peter Pan, it’s just not a constant thing like it was in that film.

One of the things I noticed about the film were that there are a few similarities that can be derived between this film and My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic that I could not help but notice. Both feature characters trying to figure out their role in life (Tinker Bell and the Cutie Mark Crusaders), both feature the changing of seasons actually being caused by the characters. They’re not huge, but they definitely exist.

I fully expected this movie to be bad, and not that awesome kind of bad (in other words, the Pac Man effect: when a film is so bad it goes all the way around to being good), the really, really, genuinely awful kind of bad. A year or two after the film was released in 2008, I spent some time over at my neighbor’s house with their young children who were watching Tinker Bell and I was genuinely surprised that it was not only watchable, but that I wanted to actually watch it in it’s entirety. It’s not a remarkably good movie, but it is very entertaining to watch. The animation is good, not great, but good. The characters are well designed, but a lot of the faces look very similar and move in kind of a weird way. The music is nothing special, but it’s passable and it doesn’t intrude on the film.

If you’re a Tinker Bell fan, you’ve probably already seen this film, but if you aren’t a fan of the fairy you should still see it. It’s a pretty good film that above all else, entertains. I’m definitely interested in seeing the other Disney Fairy films and will probably get to those sometime in the next few weeks.

Cinematic Adventures: Hook

I was going to talk about the Tokyo Game Show today, but today is a very special holiday and I thought it would be bett-arr to get in the spirit. Septemb-arr the 19th ev-arry year marks International Talk Like a Pirate Day (as I can assume some of you may have guessed by the “arr”), so we’re going to stumble upon a chest of nostalgia today.

Peter Pan is a very fun property (and is one that I based my central philosophy of life on), but beyond the original stories, there isn’t that much in the series that is particularly good besides the original stories by J.M. Barrie and a surprisingly large amount of mediocre adaptations of said original stories. This spotty track record would lead you to assume that there would be even less watchable sequels based off of the material (you would be right), but there is definitely one good sequel, and it is actually the only sequel that I view as being worthy of that status, and that is Steven Spielberg’s Hook.

Hook follows a now adult Peter Pan (now named Peter Banning) (Robin Williams) who has completely forgotten about Neverland and works so hard that he neglects his family, all of this changes when he returns to England with his family for the dedication of a new wing of a hospital being named after Granny Wendy (Maggie Smith) and Captain Hook (Dustin Hoffman) and Mr. Smee (Bob Hoskins) kidnaps his children in order to get revenge on Pan. The problem is that Peter has completely forgotten about Neverland and being Peter Pan, this all changes when Tinker Bell (Julia Roberts) takes him back and gets the Lost Boys, now led by Rufio (Dante Basco, you may also recognize his voice as being Zuko from Avatar: the Last Airbender) to teach him how to be Pan again in order to end the battle with Hook and save his children.

The story can be very sappy at times (which can easily be said about almost every Steven Spielberg after he had kids and he started making films he can watch with his family), but it is a very fun story that manages to stay true to the original stories while otherwise being completely new.

Robin Williams and Dustin Hoffman really bring their A-games here. Williams is genuinely hilarious at times and does a very good job of being a serious dad and kind of a dick. I actually did not realize that Hook was played by Dustin Hoffman for the longest time as he isn’t playing any semblance of a role he has played before. He is actually rather imposing and menacing, which is rather amazing considering how short Hoffman is normally. What makes Hoffman’s acting so great in this film is his mouth movements, all of his smiles and grimaces are amplified to comical levels (I think part of the reason that this happens is because of the moustache). The real star of the show, though, is Bob Hoskins as Mr. Smee. In Hook, Smee is a very sarcastic character that will turn tail and run at the slightest notice. Hoskins brings this grizzled sliminess to the role that makes him very fun to watch. Who I do not like in the film is Julia Roberts, but that is probably more that I have never liked her than she is bad in the film.

The best thing in the film is the set design. Everything is obscenely detailed and distinctive, the architecture of the Pirate village and ship is much more “normal” (and I use that term as loosely as possible to refer to a place where there are railings that have busts of Captain Hook built into the support rails) as opposed to the heavily natural and cobbled together Lost Boy treehouse. This is the kind of film where every time you watch the film, you see new things. Also, I want the little island in the Captain’s Quarters along with his bed that lowers from the ceiling. Actually, scratch that, I want his entire quarters. The costumes are just as impressive to look at as the scenery is. I love that the Lost Boys look like they got all of their clothes from a Goodwill in the middle of the jungle. The pirates look like, well, pirates. No surprise there, but there is a very large amount of variety in the materials and colours found in their costumes and no pirate is exactly the same as any other one. It’s actually rather impressive considering the large number of pirates that populate Hook’s crew.

John Williams did the score for the film and the score was surprisingly low key compared to his other well known pieces. That’s not to say that there aren’t bombastic themes in the film, but they are fewer and farther between.

Hook is not the best movie out there, but it’s a very entertaining one. It can be sappy and overly silly (I’m looking right at you Final Battle Scene) and has some very mediocre sword choreography, but the performances by Robin Williams, Dustin Hoffman, and Bob Hoskins along with the amusing story and amazing costumes and sets make Hook a highly watchable (and re-watchable) film.

Adventures of a Lost Boy in Disneyland (Part 6): Mickey’s SoundSational Parade

Disney is very hit-or-miss when it comes to parades, they’re basically always either amazing or crushingly mediocre. For every Pixar Play Parade, there’s a Block Party Bash/Pixar Pals: Countdown to Fun. Luckily for Disneyland (and it’s thousands of parade-goers), the exceptionally quirky Mickey’s SoundSational Parade is definitely the former.

One of the things that makes people favour Disneyland over Walt Disney World is the inclusion of live music. There are numerous bands (like the Dapper Dans, Hook and Ladder Company, Strawhatters, Royal Street Bachelors, and the Bootstrappers) around the Disneyland park that will play multiple shows a day, they do swing dancing lessons with a full big band, there is the Disneyland All-American College Band which collects some of the best college musicians from around the country, and there is of course the Disneyland Band. Mickey’s SoundSational Parade takes this history of live music and adds it to a parade for the first time in the history of a Disney park that isn’t just having the Disneyland Band or High School/College marching bands being part of the parade. The show doesn’t use the live music as much as I hoped it would, but it starts with a drum line and Mickey Mouse actually playing the drums (and playing them rather well) and a number of the floats have musical aspects to them like cymbals or simple drums for the characters to bang.

The parade takes the Disney standard route of taking a number of Disney films and making floats based around them, but the stylization of the parade is what really makes it special. The floats were designed by the amazing Kevin Kidney and Jody Daily (who also designed the Pixar Play Parade) and were designed to look like classic pop-up books. The muted colors of the floats give the parade a more retro look and the range of colour makes everything look very happy and childlike. The look works perfectly for the parade and seeing classic Disney films rendered in the style is a wonder to behold. Paper models of each of the parades were made by Kidney and Daily to get the exact look that Disney wanted for the parade along with being able to figure out how to have all of these very flat elements constructed in a way that they are dynamic and actually have depth. The parade has a very high level of whimsy with various fantastical structures flowing out of the floats and parts that move and spin, making a pleasant and kinetic experience. A number of the floats take the basic design of a drum and individualize them to fit the movie they are supposed to represent. Normally, I would think that this is a very lazy way of adding more floats to a parade, but they are actually very distinctive from each other and are followed by smaller floats that easily make up for the same base float being repeated.

The floats are great, but there real star of the show is the music (some might say it’s soundtrack is soundsational). The audio for the show combines a number of different songs from each featured movie that were re-recorded to flow together with each other along with the main theme without being too jaring. The main theme for the parade is very catchy (in a good way) and really gets you pumped up and in the mood for the rest of the parade, but is exceptionally variable. Throughout the parade, it’s arranged in different ways to reflect the style of music featured in each float, it starts in it’s normal form at the beginning with the Mickey Mouse float, but becomes more arabic sounding for Aladdin or jazzy for the Princess and the Frog float.

The parade starts with a drum line and the “Mickey Strikes up the Band” float and then goes through a number of floats representing different films (that all have very silly names), starting with the Aladdin’s Magical Cymbal Celebration, Sebastians Calypso Carnival, Donald’s Fiesta Fantastico (the Three Caballeros appearing for what is probably one of the first times in a parade), Royal Princesses Romantic Melodies (the design of the float is based almost entirely on Tangled, but Aurora, Belle, Cinderella, and Snow White also appear on the float), Simba’s Beastly Beats (which also features the Jungle Book and Tarzan), Peter Pan’s Neverland Buccaneer Blast, Mary Poppins’ Spoonful of Rhythm, and Tiana’s New Orleans Jazzy Jamboree. In a very different change of pace, I actually took video of the parade on my very mediocre camera. I’m going to include it here (but I would honestly suggest you watch a better quality one)

Disney should really look at what makes this parade special (such as it’s whimsical art style and it’s fantastic soundtrack) and apply it to whatever parades come in the future. They should also bring a version of it to the Magic Kingdom. Just saying.

51 Days of Disney (Day 14): Peter Pan

This movie, like Alice in Wonderland, was a long time coming. The Disney Studios bought the rights to adapt the play for the screen from the Great Ormond Street Hospital in 1939 after four years of asking and intended to make the film to follow Bambi, but obviously a little thing called World War II stopped that from happening. Peter Pan follows the story of the boy who never grew up. The Darling children, Wendy, John, and Michael follow Peter to Neverland and encounter Mermaids, Indians, and Peter’s nemesis, Captain Hook, who is terrified of the crocodile who ate his hand.

The film actually keeps a number of the conventions set by the play, such as the same actor (in this case it was Hans Conreid) playing both Mr. Darling and Captain Hook. This adaptation did a number of new things with the property, such as the casting of a boy as Peter Pan (traditionally, Peter is played by a young woman) and making Tinker Bell have an appearance besides being nothing more than a light. She actually became a character that can emote and visibly effect what is going on.

This film is also the host of a few lasts for the company. Peter Pan is the last animated Disney film that was released by RKO before the Disney Studios opened up the Buena Vista Distribution arm of the company. It is also the last Disney film to have animation by all of Disney’s Nine Old Men. For those of you not in the know, the Nine Old Men were Walt’s core animators, and later animation directors, and animated some of the most stunning scenes in the Disney animated films. The Nine Old Men consisted of Les Clark (who specialized in animated Mickey Mouse), Marc Davis (Bambi, Thumper, Maleficent and Diablo, Cruella De Vil, and Tinker Bell), Ollie Johnston (the Evil Stepsisters, Mr. Smee, and Prince John), Milt Kahl (Shere Kahn, Edgar the Butler, Sheriff of Nottingham, and Madame Medusa), Ward Kimball (Lucifer, Jaq, Gus, the Mad Hatter, and the Cheshire Cat), Eric Larson (Peg from Lady and the Tramp, the Vultures from the Jungle Book, Brer Rabbit, Brer Fox, and Brer Bear, but he was mostly known for training new animators), John Lounsbery (Ben Ali Gator, George Darling, Tony, Joe, and some of the dogs from Lady and the Tramp, the Kings from Sleeping Beauty, and the Elephants from the Jungle Book), Wolfgang Reitherman (Monstro, the Crocodile, and Maleficent’s Dragon form, he also directed the shorts “the Band Concert” and “Music Land,” and scenes like the Dinosaur fight in the Rite of Spring and the Headless Horseman chase), and Frank Thomas (Lady Tremaine, the Queen of Hearts, Captain Hook).

There is one aspect of Peter Pan I never understood, namely the intense love of Tinker Bell. There are a large number of obsessed fans of Tinker Bell, and I can’t fathom why. She’s obscenely bitchy in the movie, so it seems weird to me that people love her so much, but maybe they just like the character design. Marc Davis’ animation for her is fantastic, but her character is just so unlikeable. The most recent Tinker Bell movies are trying to soften her image, which is probably a good thing and despite the fact that they are straight to video movies, what I have seen of the first one is pretty decent.

Peter Pan is one of my favourite Disney films (which is a trend that will persist throughout the 50’s) mostly because of the highly adventurous nature of the story. The film is a swashbuckling, action packed romp with a good sense of humour (the shaving scene and really anything else concerning Smee is comedy gold).